kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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Art, Good Art, & Modern Art

A reader writes:

Hi there Kyle hope all is well,
I'm on spring break this week and I came across two tickets for the museum of modern art and I think my father and I are going to go this Wednesday. I was wondering, in your opinion would it be worth it to go? The last time I was there I got really upset by seeing a piece of paper ripped out of a children's coloring book with the picture half colored in, and it was on display. Seeing things like that when there are artists out there that make beautiful paintings and take great photos makes me angry. I mean come on, anyone can do that. I've been plunging myself into the art world lately because I am hoping to bring this interest into my college life starting next year. Please let me know your opinion on this topic! Thanks!!

I think this is a really important question so I wanted to answer it here where people can read and chime in with their own thoughts.

In a broad sense, art was relatively representational from the Venus of Willendorf on. Artists made things that looked like other things and some of them were extremely good at it; they spent a lot of time making their thing look like other things, and that is a lot of people's concept of what art is. You get an easel and a canvas and you smear paint on it until it looks like a bridge or a person and the more it looks like a bridge or a person the better it is. Some time in the early 1900's Marcel Duchamp, who was a French artist, (though I think he was living in New York) showed up at a gallery with a urinal he bought from a plumbing supply store. He put it on a pedestal and said "here's my art" and it was very clever at the time because suddenly art wasn't just about art, his art wasn't about toilets, but rather it was about the art world, about something very ephemeral -- the idea that some people get to say what's good and what's art. "If I'm an artist," he reasoned, "and I say this is art, then it's art." And some people got very upset, and other people stood in the gallery looking at it and thinking very deeply about what Duchamp was trying to say and the art world split apart into a million pieces with lots of people exploring new ideas of "what is art"? Though I think, very sadly, it created a much larger group of people who thought "oh, wait, i can just drag something crazy into this gallery and give it a pretentious title and it'll be art!"

There were people who came after Duchamp like Andy Warhol who's art, I think, wasn't so much his art, but his life -- like an iceberg a lot of what was going on was beneath the water and as such, it's impossible to look at one of his pieces alone and try and decide if he was a good artist or a bad one.

I'm not a huge fan of most modern art and I think in MOMA you'll probably see a lot of work that leaves you baffled -- piles of carpets or nails in blocks of wood or great mangled piles of coat hangers jutting from vats of tar. I often tend to shrug my shoulders at it and move on. But there are two big reasons that you should go to MOMA. The first is because if you're going to be an artist, you'll need to have a voice in this conversation, you'll need to know what your peers are doing, and what you like, and what you don't like, and you'll need to start to formulate your opinion on why you like or dislike something, and you'll need to understand how to look at art and how to see the parts of it that are off the page, the parts that are the artist saying, as Duchamp was, "here's what's wrong about the art world right now". The second reason that you should go to MOMA is because Starry Night is there and you can stand nine inches away from it and stare at the canvas and feel the world go quiet behind you and you'll never ever ever see a print of that painting that looks anything like the original -- and you can look at that painting and see that an artists job isn't to recreate the world, but to reflect it in the mirror of their mind.

Hope this helps.

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